Chairman of the South Downs National Park planning committee, Neville Harrison was forced to use his deciding vote in favour of plans for five ‘gimmicky’ statues on heathland in the Midhurst and Petworth area which divided members at a meeting on Thursday.
The committee was discussing a plan to put the five sculptures on commons at Black Down, Graffham, Lavington, Stedham and Woolbeding as part of a project by the park to link seven heathlands with an educational trail and place a piece of sculpture on each site.
Alun Alesbury told fellow members of the committee many people were fearful that ‘gimmicky things’ would be put in the former Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ when the South Downs National Park was originally proposed.
He also accused the park of ‘hypocrisy’ in proposing the statues when it had demanded the Goodwood Estate should remove the statue of a horse’s head on Trundle Hill in the face of local upset.
“It is completely bonkers that this authority, against that background, should be proposing a number of statues which seems such a dereliction of our principle duty to preserve and enhance the natural beauty.”
Robert Mocatta told the meeting he was concerned about the level of opposition voiced to the statues from three parish council which had been ‘quite vocal in saying how much they did not want these statues – we have got an issue to think about.”
He added: “In my view in terms of consultation we have got quite a lot of work to do and the level of opposition is something we have to take into consideration.”
But Ian Phillips said there was a long tradition of public art in the English countryside: “I see these pieces as very respectful artefacts which are likely to attract more people to visit the heathland.” Doug Jones added the Shipwrights Way was a 50 mile walk taking in the national park, which had 20 statues.